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Published on November 29th, 2017 | by voxx


Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon?

Another month, another excellent album from a Gallagher brother…

Released seven months after its parent album, September 2015’s Where The City Meets The Sky – Chasing Yesterday: The Remixes twisted six tracks from Noel Gallagher’s second solo album into 11 new interpretations. Some, such as Andrew Weatherall’s throbbing take on ‘In The Heat Of The Moment’, were great, some not so great. But one reset the course of Gallagher’s third album.

The kaleidoscopic retooling of ‘The Girl With The X-Ray Eyes’ by David Holmes sparked something in Gallagher, a man renowned for employing a safe pair of hands as producer (it’s been either Dave Sardy or himself since 2005). He dived into collaborating with the Northern Irish dance veteran and, in the process, chucked out every song he’d written for possible inclusion to start again.

What has emerged from the pair’s sessions in Belfast and London is the former Oasis man’s most reinvigorated work in years. While that might solely be down to the spirit of adventure Holmes brought out of him in the studio, you can’t discount what effect the knowledge that his little brother would probably be releasing an album around the same time has had. The tension and chemistry that made Oasis so special has fed into both Gallaghers’ solo albums in its own way. In Liam’s case, it has meant a stellar vocal performance and anthemic balladry to rival anything in the latter years of Oasis. For Noel, he finally follows through on his threats to make something more out-there and ambitious than the solid, and sometimes stodgy, output of the past six years.

That isn’t to suggest Who Built The Moon? is an album of Brian Eno soundscapes and prog experimentalism. These tracks sound like Noel Gallagher tracks – Noel Gallagher can’t help but sound like Noel Gallagher, except for the bit on ‘Holy Mountain’ where he sounds like The Vaccines’ Justin Young – but the meat-and-veg arrangements have been spiced up with some exotic new ingredients. ‘Keep On Reaching’ is the sort of catchy, cocky groove that could’ve soundtracked a car chase in Baby Driver; instrumental opener ‘Fort Knox’ is an eccentric, psychedelic cousin to 2000’s ‘F**kin’ In The Bushes’; and ‘If Love Is The Law’ takes a La’s-style acoustic ditty and turns it into something cinematic and audacious. It’s not all great – ‘She Taught Me How To Fly’ is Lightning Seeds lightweight next to the rest – and you can’t help but wonder how much extra bite both ‘Holy Mountain’ and ‘Black & White Sunshine’ would’ve had with Liam singing.

For the most part, though, his third solo album sees Noel Gallagher adopting a forward-looking approach as he enters his 50′s. Standout track ‘It’s A Beautiful World’ perfectly combines his way with a communal singalong and the record’s bold, sparkling production. That willingness to shake things up is what makes Who Built The Moon? his best record in more than a decade.

- By Jake White

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